A return of tighter Covid-19 restrictions cannot be ruled out this winter, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has warned.
Speaking during a debate on an extension to the legal framework for Covid restrictions which are due to expire on October 9th, Mr Donnelly said the path of the virus cannot be predicted.
According to the Irish Examiner, the Minister said an "agile and flexible" is needed for any "new emerging threats".
"The act is an important part of that response, should the potential for [a new threat] arise in the future, and while unlikely, it cannot be fully ruled out because of the uncertainty of the future trajectory of the virus, given how novel it is," he said.
Mr Donnelly reassured TDs that the plan remains to ease the last restrictions on October 22nd, "pending final Government approval and final analysis from our public health teams".
"I'd like to assure the house, to assure colleagues, that existing regulations under the Act are due to be revoked, with effect from the 22nd of October, in line with the Government's plan for this phase of Covid-19," he said.
Sinn Féin are not in support of the extension, however, with the party's health spokesperson David Cullinane stating that Mr Donnelly has not supplied adequate reasoning for the move.
"You're asking for this three-month extension to bring us up to January 9th," Mr Cullinane said.
"That's not something that I can support, because when you go back to the very first day that you were Minister, maybe your predecessor, brought forward proposals for emergency powers, we all accepted that they could only be in place for as long as they are necessary and that we could not keep extending them.
"If there was a change in the trajectory of the disease, this house is very capable, as it has done in the past, of coming in here and agreeing new regulations," he added.
A vote is due to be held on Wednesday on the extension for the legal framework.